Photo/IllutrationReclamation work continues off the coast of the Henoko district in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The Okinawa Defense Bureau notified prefectural authorities June 12 that a new phase in land reclamation work will start Aug. 17 off Okinawa’s main island to build a new U.S. military base.

The bureau, an arm of the Defense Ministry, plans to reclaim 63,410 square meters off Nago city’s coastal Henoko district by March 31, 2020, as a replacement for the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the crowded city of Ginowan.

The project faces fierce local opposition due in part to its devastating impact on the natural environment.

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, gearing up for a legal fight which could delay the work, told reporters June 12, “If the circumstances, in terms of environmental conservation and other factors, turn out to be something that cannot be overlooked, I will not hesitate to rescind (my predecessor’s) approval for the reclamation work.”

However, the prefecture has no authority to stop the construction itself.

An Okinawa prefectural ordinance obliges the central government to notify prefectural authorities whenever it is about to start any construction project, including land reclamation, if the site is 1,000 square meters or larger.

The prefectural government will review the plan within 45 days, and is permitted to consult construction experts for an environmental impact assessment, if necessary.

Onaga, a longtime opponent of the base relocation project, underwent cancer surgery in April. In May, he vowed to carry on, saying he will fulfill his duties for the rest of his term through December.